Monday 11 February 2008

Crunchy suburbs, logo buildings and pork chop lots

There's an interesting post on the Walker Design blog today, about the site they've built to accompany the Walker exhibition 'Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes', which 'demonstrate[s] how the American suburb has played a catalytic role in the creation of new art'.

First off, the post is interesting because the writer talks about both the tech specs of the site (which incorporates a wiki - more about that later) and about how the designers worked to make the design of the site and the print publication sympathetic and coherent - not just visually, but by trying to make a similar reader / user experience. I'm not sure that the outcome is very successful, in terms of the site being a bit hard to control and navigate, but it's interesting to see this attempt at a consistent approach on a large-scale project.

The site includes essays, artist bios, a selection of videos loaded to YouTube by visitors / interested people, and a lexicon of terms, which is an editable wiki (think Wikipedia). It's this last one that I find really interesting (and where I got the words in this post's title).

The lexicon grew out of the curators' research for the exhibition; they found a lot of great words and phrases that had been invented / adapted to describe suburbia and urban design, and rather than just let them go to waste when they didn't fit into the wall panels, they're printing them as a lexicon in the publication. They've also loaded the terms into this wiki, where the definitions can now be edited by anyone, and further terms added. So - here are the definitions for crunchy suburbs, logo buildings and pork chops.

I really like this idea. When you research a show or an essay, so many beautiful small details have to be dropped, due to word limits, or to simplify narratives, or simply because they are small details, and and you need to concentrate on getting the big ones across. It also gives a sliver of insight into the kind of things that curators do when preparing shows. Yay for the Walker, again.


Anonymous said...

I had a great time exploring the site. The Youtube videos were excellent. I kinda glad my suburn doesn't look like thoise US ones. It also made me feel better about living in a 1970s beige street.

justinph said...

Glad you like the site. Yeah, the navigation isn't quite perfect. It's really hard to gauge user intent by where they move their mouse and for how long. I kind of knew it would be a problem going into it and tried to minimize it as much as posssible. It should work slightly better in Firefox or Safari than IE on the PC, but that is pretty much the deal for every website these days.